On this first weekend in spring our thoughts turn to the flowers and plants that will soon be gracing our landscape and to a terrific read for the botanically minded. It’s Victoria Johnson’s “American Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic” (Liveright Publishing Corp./W.W. Norton & Co., $29.95, 480 pages) and it tells the story of the little-known Hosack – physician to those archenemies Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr – who not only pioneered new surgical techniques and devices like the stethoscope, new ways of thinking about prenatal and neonatal care and new treatments for infectious diseases and cancer but created the country’s first botanical garden of medicinal plants.
Today, it lies buried under Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. But it and he would forever shape the country’s attitudes toward botanical gardens, disease and wellness.
An associate professor of urban policy and planning at Hunter College in Manhattan, where she teaches the history of New York City, Johnson, a former Cullman fellow, and her book will be the subjects of a feature in May WAG (“Fascinating Landscapes”). But why wait until then to get to know the author of this finalist for the 2018 National Book Award and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year? She’ll be the guest of honor at a cocktail reception at the Jay Heritage Center in Rye April 18 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Afterward, there will be a book signing. Tickets are $25 and can be obtained here .
— Georgette Gouveia